Survival Woman learns to cook dried beans and you should too

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: July 4, 2019
Survival Woman learns to cook dried beans and you should too

April 018 (280x210)While having dinner with friends last week, the conversation came around to emergency food storage and, more specifically, dried beans.  The consensus around the table was that beans were a great item to have stashed away in our emergency pantries but that cooking dried beans was a pain in the arse and not altogether something we wanted to do.

Well I needed to chew on that one (and no, I am not referring to tough cooked beans.)   I had been harping on S.H. for awhile asking him to keep an eye out for canned bean bargains during his weekly foray to the big city.  But no luck so far.

Now wait just one darn minute.   I can cook beans.  I know I can.  Just how hard can it be?

So that is what I set out to do.  I bought a one pound bag of kidney beans ($1.49) and cooked them up.  It was so easy– no mess, no hassle, and I ended up with five cups of beans for the same price as a 15 oz. can of beans yielding 1 1/2 cups of  beans.

How easy was it?  I used the “quick soak” method described below and they were perfect.

How to cook dried beans

Overnight Soak Method

  • Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
  • Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
  • Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
  • Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours

Quick Soak Technique

  • Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
  • Cook for 3 minutes
  • Remove from heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour

Both Methods

  • Regardless of which method you use, after their soak, drain the beans and add fresh water to a cooking pot.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  • When cooking beans, use a gentle simmer. Boiling can cause the cooking liquid to overflow, as well as the beans to break apart and the skins to separate. When dried beans boil, a foam forms on the top of the cooking liquid. This foam is water-soluble protein released from the beans and it will be absorbed back into the bean cooking liquid. It is not necessary to remove the foam.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork

Cooking Facts

  • One pound of dried beans = 2 cups of beans = 5 to 6 cups of cooked beans, depending on the type.
  • Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
  • You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
  • Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the beans.  Don’t do it.
  • Add acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they slow the cooking process.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
  • To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze.

All is now well.  I feel smug knowing that I can actually cook a pot of beans from scratch.  If I had to, I could even do this outdoors in a fire pit.  The best part is that the process was so easy that I now feel comfortable going to Costco and purchasing that 50 pound sack for $26.  That works out to 52 cents a pound. Talk about a bargain.

Added bonus:  A 50 pound sack of beans with some canned tomatoes, rice, and spices would go a long way towards helping us feed our unprepared neighbors if the SHTF.

But oh oh.  Shelf life.  Did you know that the shelf life of dried beans is typically only one year? 

Time to study up and figure out how to extend that shelf life using my Food Saver , some Mylar bags, and perhaps some food grade buckets.  Actually, I believe I have found the answer.  Stay tuned.

Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!


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48 Responses to “Survival Woman learns to cook dried beans and you should too”

  1. Oh, I love using dried beans!

    In our house we use a lot of beans, and buying them already canned was bordering on ridiculous. I mean we use a case of 12 every 2 weeks! That gets expensive. So, I started buying dried beans, and canning them myself. Easy peasy with a pressure canner. Now, I buy the big sacks of beans, do a weekend of canning-I soak the beans overnight, then heat, put in jar, cover with liquid, process 75 minutes for pints, 90 for quarts-and I have on the shelf, canned beans.

    So much cheaper than already canned, and I know exactly what’s in the jars. I love that.

    • I have never used a pressure cooker, or canned for that matter. Another thing to add to the to do list. One thing I do do is store various (dry) items in canning jars. I seal them up with my food saver which has a gizmo for sealing the tops. The filled canning jars look so orderly and beautiful on the shelf in my garage LOL.

  2. This way to quick soak method is great – except we live at 8,000 ft and our water boils at about 198 degrees — which isn’t hot enough for this method. Pressure cookers aren’t good for cooking beans because of the foam and clog the relief hole. — always open to new ways to try things and suggestions

    Always enjoy your blog

    • If you boil them for 10 minutes in the pressure cooker without the top on, then dump them into a colander and rinse, then rinse the pressure cooker out and start with fresh water, you will not get the foam.

  3. I’ve had dried beans stored more than a year and they cook
    up just fine, maybe the nutrients diminish after that.
    You see those heirloom garden seed kits for just
    over $100.00 and they include brands for growing, those
    kits are meant to store for up to 20yrs. Yes canned beans are getting
    pretty pricey. I just made chicken chili a few days
    ago and used the quick soak/cook method, worked fine.
    Another even more nutritious food to buy is Lentils, they have
    more nutritive value than beans, and some chopped up
    ham added makes a tasty meal, and corn bread.
    Quinine-I remember buying some years back
    in Friday Harbor and within about a month, had been pulled from the shelf.
    had I known, I would have bought all they had. There is however another source
    for it. Schweps/western family Tonic water has Quinine in it. Randy used to wake up
    in the middle of the night with horrific leg cramps, take 1 pill and in about 12 min. they are gone. Since we have been drinking tonic water with our
    Gin, and rum, no more leg cramps.

    • The tonic water has never worked for me. Plus, to me it tastes vile. I suppose this is a case of YMMV. I did some research on repackaging dried beans for long term storage using mylar bags and the food saver. Stay tuned.

    • I used a large spoonful but for me it made no difference at all. I keep searching for the perfect antidote for leg and foot cramps. (I also tried 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar but that did not work for me either.)

    • I’m on my feet all day, so its something I deal with regularly. I haven’t found anything that works yet. Some times it gets pretty gnarly in the wee hours of the morning. LOL. Hope you find a good remedy!

    • Muscle cramps is often a magnesium deficiency, try taking a magnesium supplement or an epsom salts bath.

    • I hope Sandy has the right idea. I just received a bag of magnesium flakes to make my magnesium oil. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is suppose to be the ultimate cramp stopper. Mix the mag flakes with hot water, store in a bottle and rub on your sore spots.

    • The magnesium did not help me much. When an “episode” occurs I pop a magnesium, zinc and calcium tab and it offers temporary (like 10 or 20 minutes) relief max. A heating pad helps somewhat.

      Yesterday I made a salve with essential oils (peppermint, lavender and rosemary). If it works, I will write it up and share the recipe. It does smell nice 🙂

  4. I use the pressure cooker. Yes the top has to be cleaned after using, but hey, it had to be washed anyway 🙂

  5. I have some stored beans from 1982, kept in the dark in cleaned jug wine bottles, that sometimes (but not always) don’t cook up soft. If they don’t, THEN I pressure can them. This has worked for me every time, so I continue to store them dry. (thanks to Jackie Clay over at Backwoods Home Magazine for that tip. It’s saved a lot of elderly beans from becoming chicken feed.)

  6. I wasn’t raised much with beans. So, I don’t know them very well. What spices do you recommend for flavoring them? Or does it depend on the meat if any used? Any info appreciated. Thanks Survivor woman!

    • There are hundreds of ways and flavor combinations to use – so go with the type of cooking you were raised with to start – then experiment.

      I personally like ham or bacon with onions, chives, salt, pepper, and that’s about it. Top with butter when I eat them… Unless it’s all white beans – then I like sugar on top – a southern tradition, I guess?

      I like stew meat with a big batch of mixed dried beans, onions, garlic, pepper.

      And sometimes I like a BBQ sauce mixed with them.
      Or you can do mexican spices, or thai spices, or oriental spices…. all about what flavorings YOU like 🙂 Beans – very very versatile!

    • Marci has already given you some ideas so I will not repeat them. I like to add beans to salads (black beans and corn mixed with a vinaigrette is awesome) and also to my homemade soups. Another way we eat them is simmered with onions, garlic and tomato sauce. I will often throw the pre-cooked beans in the crock pot and let them simmer this way for hours. Add a chunk of bread and you have a great meal.

      When you first start to eat a lot of beans, you might want to use some beano which is an enzyme that will help with the gas. After awhile, your body will become accustomed to the beans and you won’t have a problem (with the gas, that is). S.W.

  7. I have 150 pounds each of Pinto, Red and Navy beans stored in Corny kegs since 2008 – will start rotating next year and see how they cook up/taste.

    SW – what kind of ‘food saver’ do you have that allows you to seal canning jars?

    • My foodsaver is nothing special other than it is the standard FoodSaver brand with an accessory port. For about $10 you can purchase a jar-sealer attachment that fits on Mason jars. It attaches via the rubber hose that connects to the accessory port. I have the wide-mouthed jar version listed in my Amazon store if you want to take a look at //

      Also, in the next day or two I will be posting an article on using the hose attachment and an iron to vacuum seal mylar bags full of beans. S.H. and I had a hilarious time figuring this out but the results were worth the bean fights LOL.

      — Gaye

    • You can easily store beans for 10-12 years, and even longer, but what I have found is after about 10 years they get harder which means that they take longer to cook. One thing that helps is when you cook them you can pressure cook them or you can crack them in your grain grinder if you still want some chunks or you can grind them into bean flour to use in quick cook soups etc. I also love to can my own beans, you do not have so much salt and other ingredients like you get with store bought ingredients. If you do not have a canner another quick cook thing you can do is when you make a batch of beans make an extra large batch then put the beans into freezer bags and lay them flat in your freezer, it is super handy. BTW this also work really well for rice.

  8. Hi Survival woman…glad to see you’ve learned just how easy and how great home cooked beans are compared to store canned beans! Beans have been the main protein source of my 55 yrs on this earth by CHOICE…and having been raised in Texas our FAVORITE Sunday meal (when you weren’t expecting company) is Beans, Taters, and Cornbread with a slice of onion and some home canned peppers! Sunday beans were always eaten on a nice plate, never a bowl! YUMMM. I have made it my mission in life to turn on all my son’s friends (when they were growing up) here in Washington to “REAL BEANS” as we call them. But the reason for this post is to recommend to you that you learn just how easy it is to CAN your own BEANS! I’ve been doing it since I was a teen…that’s how easy it is to do. AND home canned beans taste better IMHO than store canned beans BECAUSE you control the process. You use the same amount of fuel to make a whole canner of beans than you would probably use to make a big pot of beans on the stove, so it is frugal IMHO.

    You may wonder WHY would a person can 8 QT’s of beans in their canner? Well because of those times when we have a Washington gale blow thru and the power goes out of course!! And those times when you get surprised with visitors just before starting a meal. Add a Qt of home canned chili (without beans) to a Qt of home canned beans…and 20 mins later you have homemade chili as tender and tasty as you could hope for. Ball home canning book 35 years ago recommended that you can the beans alone and the chili meat alone…then combine with re-heating. I’ve done it that way every since and I am always proud to offer this meal because it IS homemade…but it is as convenient as can be. You can look up how to can dry beans easily enough…I just recommend you try it at least once! I love my home canned beans with a tablespoon of good Gebharts Chili powder (it’s a Texas thing) and it makes the best “Ranch Style Beans” ever! And always a pinch of sugar when you add the salt…

    • I was just thinking about cooking up some beans and freezing them in quart sized bags so that I can avoid the temptation of opening up a can. I don’t have a canner – which I assume is a pressure cooker? I suppose I should check one out and get with the program LOL.

      By the way, what is the purpose of the pinch of sugar? S.W.

  9. Hi SurvivalWoman,
    I’m not sure where your information comes from regarding the shelf life of beans. One year doesn’t sound correct. Stored correctly (at 70ºF or below), a #10 can of dry beans should easily last 8 to 10 years, with no significant loss of taste, texture or nutritional value. Many vendors, like Emergency Essentials, will tell you that properly stored, they should last up to 20 years.

    • Thank you for your note. When I referenced a one year shelf life, I meant one year if packaged in the typical plastic bag you get at the grocery store and not a can or mylar bag that is sealed for long term storage. S.W.

  10. I grew up eating bean at least twice a week, I love beans. When people complain that they cannot afford to feed their family, the first thing I ask them is what do they cook. If you are on a limited budget using beans in many ways can save you big bucks. Dry beans are in expensive and when combined with something like rice or pearl barley they can be a complete protein. Plus it make for a easy meal if you put them into your crock pot you do not even have to hardly mess with them. Once you get used to cooking with beans you can do so much with them. One of my favorite things to do with beans is grind them into a bean flour for quick cook bean meals, you can make cream soups, dips, buritos and so much more. The main thing is experiment with them, learn to use them they are so versatile – healthy and cheap.

  11. I started canning pinto beans last year. We live in a remote area, the nearest store is more than an hour’s drive. We have always eaten a lot of refried beans, tacos, nachos, burritos, etc. Now, even though the price for a jar of canned beans is about the same as store bought beans, there is only the beans, a pinch of salt and water in the jar. So easy and economical.

  12. Re: Leg cramps
    There is a supplement available at the health supplement section at Walmart called Calcium Magnesium Zinc, which will knock out leg cramps immediately. I keep a bottle by my bed and only take whenever I have a cramp. Try it, you will be amazed. I am new here and really appreciate all the information.
    Best regards,

    Pa Hawk

  13. Good one! (I have lotsa small stupormarket bags of dried beans here, but still learning how to use them.) That recipe for home-made refried beans has really got me interested- can refried beans be made with kidney beans?
    I had supper at my Son’s place, a couple of weeks ago. His Mexican girlfriend cooked supper- quesadillas- from scratch. She made her own Salsa and Guacamole while I watched-I was so impressed! All of the ingredients she used, were fresh- and they cost pennies!
    Still looking for the ultimate burrito, though…….

  14. Great info Survival Woman> Navy beans are my favorite, I get them free from a local farmer, here in MI. I have a 5 gal. pail full right now, tomorrow will be making bean soup with ham… mom’s recipe….yum yum…….

  15. re LEG CRAMPS
    my wife suffers with contortive leg cramps in the early a.m.. usually after excessive standing or walking. besides hot compress we often use 1 to 2 tablespoons of dill pickle juice. 9 times out of ten that will break the cramps. hope this helps

    • So far, none of the suggestions I have received have worked for me. I am will to try this – dill pickle juice. Who would have thought?

  16. I cook my beans after an overnight soak (and I add baking soda to the soak as well). Once they’re cooked, I drain and rinse them, then put them in the dehydrator until they’re completely dry, then store them with an oxygen packet (I usually mix them with seasonings and freeze dried veggies for a meal in a jar). Rehydrate them in boiling water for about 20 min to a half hour, they’re a quick-cook bean that is shelf-stable.

  17. Hi Gaye,

    from personal experience,I tend to lose salt and fluid easily, sweat or urine. Paradoxically, drinking too much water leads to loss of water and salts (e.g. diuretics).
    The remedy–1/4 tsp (potassium chloride) fake salt, 1/2 tsp real salt, 12 oz water. It’ll take a couple hours to re-hydrate.

    Chilcote MD
    Hamilton, MT

  18. Hey Gaye,

    Do you have George Ure’s Ranch Beans with sweet onions recipe?


    Chilcote MD
    Hamilton, MT

  19. Love your site! I’m a retired senior, wanting to prepare for when the SHTF, but unable to do very much…very limited funds. I always get your Sunday posting, and enjoy them very much! Does this mean I’m fully subscribed?

  20. I usually use dry beans. But I do stock some canned beans for those times when I need them on the spot! I suggest packing away a few cans of beans for when you need food immediately and don’t have the time or energy to cook. In times of emergency or stress, some ready-made foods can help a lot!

  21. also, beans slow down your metabolism, which could be good if there is an emergency and you have a limited food supply!

  22. had leg cramps for years and years, for me it was my thyroid. Now on meds and the cramps are gone. Mine used to get worse as the day went on.

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